Last week I struggled to even begin writing this blog. Can I blame my procrastination on the inauguration? YES, of course I can! It was a life-changing event for many people. For the first time ever, young African American girls were seeing someone with skin coloring similar to their own, being sworn in as Vice President of the United States!
When it came to my procrastination, my wise younger daughter Rachel said, “It happens with writers.” I thought to myself, (putting a stereo-typical Jewish question mark at the end of my thought) “I’m a writer?” I have always thought of myself as a singer first, but without in person concerts to perform, I sometimes catch myself forgetting about my pre-pandemic life where I performed a 90 minute program over a two year span of time. Currently the only time I get to sing these days is when I am either taking a voice lesson, practicing or singing the Happy Birthday song for friends and family.
Were it not for the pandemic, I would have continued to sing these rarely performed songs written in the Jewish ghettos of Eastern Europe. Instead, I was forced to ‘meet the moment’ as we all have and think of a new way to share this music. As I shared in my previous blog, the live performances have now transformed into the making of a performance/documentary. Now I am not only a singer, performer and a writer; I am also a producer, researcher and director. It is easy to feel overwhelmed.
The one motivating factor that keeps me on track is the music I sing. When I practice the Yiddish songs, I am transported to another time and place. To keep the words of the songs everfresh in my mind I have taken to singing them on my one hour power walks and my six mile bike rides. It doesn’t matter where I walk or ride, I visualize ghetto walls surrounding me, and once again am touched by the souls of the composers and writers whose lives were lost in the Holocaust.
“Farges nit dem nekhten dermon es zikh haynt!”
Forget not the past, not for one single day!
-Shmerke Kaczerginski…Dos Elnte Kind (The Lonely Child)
The words of the songs always bring me back to my goal of never forgetting the atrocities of the past. Last Thursday, January 27 was International Holocaust Remembrance day. This day of remembrance of the six million Jews murdered by Nazism, established by the United Nations General Assembly, coincides with the now 76th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. I wanted to leave you with a powerful reminder written last week on Holocaust Memorial Day from Zola Piatka Shuman, the niece of Leyb Rosenthal; one of the composers featured in my program that perished in the Holocaust.
“Today, on this International Holocaust Remembrance day, I remember my Holocaust survivor parents and all their family lost.. and the millions and millions more who were killed in the Holocaust. We MUST ALL remember….. because Holocaust Deniers are relentless…. because anti-Semitism is on the rise again… because the survivors among us are dwindling… because genocides still occur around the world today and it is vital that we educate the next generations. – Zola Piatka Shuman”